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Apr 20, 2013

Landon Donovan strikes for Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan returned to top form on the same night the Los Angeles Galaxy played their best match of the season.

Robbie Keane is pretty sure those two developments are related -- and they're both good news for the two-time defending MLS champions.

Donovan scored a goal and set up another for his first points since his return to soccer, and the Galaxy snapped Sporting Kansas City's 545-minute streak of shutout defense during a 2-0 victory Saturday night.

"Don't count the old guy out just yet," the 31-year-old Donovan said with a laugh. "I've still got a little bit more to give."

Donovan set up Marcelo Sarvas' 27th-minute goal before scoring his own goal on a pass from Keane in the 74th minute for the Galaxy (3-1-2), who ended a four-match winless skid with big performances from their two biggest stars.

Donovan returned last month from an extended sabbatical in the wake of Los Angeles' second straight championship run. The U.S. national team star and five-time MLS champion came back in excellent shape, but acknowledged he wasn't completely sharp in his first few matches, missing a handful of good scoring chances.

"I did feel more like myself," Donovan said after his first goal since the tiebreaking penalty-kick goal in the MLS Cup last December. "It's nice to hit the net again. It's been a while. While I feel like I've been working my way back, it's nice to make a tangible impact. That has to be the goal going forward."

Keane, the Galaxy's new captain after Donovan's absence, made sure his most valuable teammate couldn't miss his first goal, putting a breakaway pass right on Donovan's foot for a tap-in.

Donovan and Keane both were playing in just their third MLS matches of the season, one reason for Los Angeles' middling start to the year.

"Not a bad day, is it?" asked Keane, who played on a recently sprained left ankle. "Hopefully that's me and him back to 100 percent now. You have to give him a bit of time. Takes a few games. Doesn't matter how much fitness you do, it's going to take a while to get match sharpness."

Los Angeles goalie Carlo Cudicini also got his third shutout in his first six MLS matches, backstopping a solid defensive effort in front of the Galaxy's largest home crowd of the year.

"The entire back line played a good game," Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena said. "Collectively as a team, it was much more complete."

Sporting KC's (4-2-2) three-match winning streak ended with their first goals allowed since March 9. The Eastern Conference leader's shutout streak was the fifth-longest in MLS history.

Sporting KC had to play on both coasts this week, beating New York 1-0 on Wednesday before a six-hour flight to Los Angeles.

The Galaxy hadn't won since March 23, losing both legs of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Monterrey.

Los Angeles was sharp against Sporting KC's imposing defense, which had five shutouts in its first seven matches. Jimmy Nielsen allowed just three goals in his club's first 630 minutes, having to make only six saves in the past five matches.

Los Angeles went ahead when Sarvas jumped on a turnover at midfield and got the ball down the wing to Donovan, who patiently broke down Sporting KC's scrambling defense before firing a sharp pass through traffic to Sarvas for a point-blank score.

Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes was furious, seeing an accidental handball by Sarvas at midfield before the score that should have been "an easy call."

"I thought until the goal, we were actually pretty good," Vermes added. "It's a handball, doesn't get called, and it basically breaks us a little bit. We have to start chasing the game, and the fatigue opened us up. ... Personally, I don't really care about the shutout streak. It's just a shame, in a game like this, for a goal to be scored that way. It's a failure in the system."

A few minutes after moving up front from midfield, Donovan found the net when Keane slipped behind Sporting KC's defense for a lengthy breakaway. Keane drew every defender before sliding a pass to Donovan, who easily scored his 125th career MLS goal and punctuated it with his familiar fist-pump celebration.

"I was debating whether to actually make that run," Donovan said. "Robbie, 95 times out of 100, is going to score there. ... But he's a class player. I could sense he wanted to get me going. That's what a leader does."

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